電商移除去中間商，讓商家(B)能透過網路，直接接觸消費者(C)，降低了中間層層剝削，2015-2020 年間，非洲電子商務市場的複合年增長率約為 40%，是各大平台爭先恐後搶進的寶地。
How e-commerce looks different in Africa
Instead of selling directly to consumers, startups are targeting informal retailers
Tatu City, Kenya / The Economist May 26th 2022
農民 → 批發商(文中James) → 非正規零售商 → 小販 → 終端消費者
對於未經過訓練的眼睛來看，肯亞首都奈洛比的「 Wakulima 市場」，看起來像一片大亂鬥。大量工人推著裝滿水果和蔬菜的手推車，擠過擁擠的人群，買賣雙方大聲爭論木瓜的質量或洋蔥的優點。
To the untrained eye Wakulima market in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, looks like pandemonium. Scores of workers push handcarts laden with fruit and vegetables, jostling past heaving crowds. Buyers and sellers loudly debate the quality of a papaya or the merits of an onion. It seems chaotic. But not to James. The wholesaler (who asked that his surname not be used) gazes serenely as hirelings toss pineapples out of an open lorry, while others arrange the spiky fruit in a dozen piles of varying price, size and juiciness.
James是為肯亞提供食物的眾多中間商之一，他向從農民採購的經紀人，購買農產品。運輸商將貨物運送到 Wakulima市場，James 在那賣給非正規店家，這些店家會將食物送到路邊攤或小販，再從那賣出小量商品給顧客。“這是一門好生意，”他說。不擔心競爭對手嗎？他搖頭說“當然，我們同意價格。”
James is one of many middlemen keeping Kenyans fed. He buys produce from brokers, who have bought from farmers. Transporters take the goods to Wakulima, where James sells to informal retailers, who take the food to street stalls or kiosks, where they sell small amounts to customers. “This is a good business,” he says. Does he not worry about competitors? He shakes his head. “Of course, we agree on prices.”
Middlemen are crucial to shopping across Africa. Many consumers are too poor to buy more than a few goods at once, or to travel to large shops, so they rely on informal vendors. These account for about 90% of retail transactions in Africa. But it is too costly for these small-scale sellers to source directly from farmers or manufacturers, so they rely on middlemen, often buying at wholesale markets.
These supply chains ensure goods get to every nook and cranny. But research suggests that relying on middlemen means, at best, lots of mark-ups and, at worst, that middlemen act like cartels, keeping prices low for producers and high for consumers. More promisingly, these inefficiencies have created opportunities for e-commerce startups, which are disrupting traditional ways of doing business.
Academic evidence points to the market power of established middlemen. In a paper published in 2020, Lauren Falcao Bergquist and Michael Dinerstein, respectively of the Universities of Michigan and Chicago, studied Kenyan maize markets. To test the extent of competition among the traders who sell maize at wholesale markets, the researchers handed out a subsidy per kilogram sold by the traders. In a well-functioning market lower costs for sellers would mean lower prices for buyers. But the middlemen passed on just 22% of the reduced costs.
An earlier paper by David Atkin and Dave Donaldson, today both at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, looked at the cost of getting goods from a to b in Ethiopia and Nigeria. They found that it was four to five times more expensive than equivalent journeys from wholesaler to retailer in America, a difference that largely remained after controlling for the quality of the roads. One reason for the gap was the role of intermediaries. The authors noted that when the prices of the relevant goods fell in world markets, most of the surplus was captured by middlemen.
B2B電商：農民 → 批發商 B2B電商 → 非正規零售商 → 小販 → 終端消費者
「食品價格是市場效率的象徵」Twiga 的CEO Peter Njonjo指出。Twiga是一家肯亞電商平台，他們直接從農民採購，運到倉庫再交給非正規零售商(informal retailers)。零售商會在Twiga下單，再運用其大量數據進行供需配對。Twiga聲稱將原本40%腐爛的農產，降低到 5%，這也表示農民和零售商，能獲得較好的利潤，理論上消費者也能享受更低的價格。
“The price of food is a sign of how efficient markets are,” says Peter Njonjo, Twiga’s chief executive. The Kenyan e-commerce firm buys fresh produce directly from farmers and takes it to warehouses, where it co-ordinates delivery to informal retailers. The vendors place orders on the Twiga app, which gives the firm lots of data to match supply with demand. Mr Njonjo claims that Twiga has reduced the share of farmers’ produce that rots from 40% to 5%. That means farmers and retailers both get better margins. In theory this should result in shoppers enjoying lower prices.
Twiga只是其中一家吸引數千萬美元投資的非洲新創電商，在加納、奈及利亞和南非的 TradeDepot 也有類似模式，專注於包裝。
正如TradeDepot 的CEO Onyekachi Izukanne所說，「對像消費品集團聯合利華這樣的客戶來說，進入數百萬家小商店的經濟行動，是沒有意義的，大型供應商一直以來都依靠中間商接觸非正規零售商，TradeDepot是要加總大家大量的需求，以及各供應商的庫存。」
Twiga is one of several African e-commerce firms attracting tens of millions of dollars in venture capital. TradeDepot, which operates in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, has a similar model, focused on packaged goods. As Onyekachi Izukanne, its chief executive, explains, for clients such as Unilever, a consumer-goods conglomerate, “the economics of getting into millions of small stores doesn’t make sense.” Large suppliers have historically relied on middlemen to reach informal retailers. “Where we come in is to be able to aggregate a lot of demand, and to aggregate inventory from multiple suppliers.”
在六國營運的電商Wasoko，在《金融時報》 2017 年- 2020 年的非洲公司收入增長速度排名名列前茅。其老闆 Daniel Yu 表示，像他這樣的公司成長，反應出了他們對非洲零售的理解。許多消費者是購買"小包洗髮精或一匙料理油"，並且住在難以到達的地方，直接向他們線上購物是不切實際的。
On May 3rd Wasoko, a similar e-commerce firm operating in six countries, topped a Financial Times ranking of African companies based on how fast their revenues grew from 2017 to 2020. Its boss, Daniel Yu, says the growth of firms like his reflects their understanding of African retail. In markets where many shoppers buy sachets of shampoo or scoops of cooking oil, and live in hard-to-reach places, selling directly to them online is quixotic.
Sachets of shampoo 小包洗髮精 / Getty Images
Daniel Yu說「那些非洲中產階級的討論，現實上，亞馬遜的消費者不存在。」 他認為，這就是為何曾經被喻為「非洲亞馬遜」的B2C電商Jumia，掙扎著實現一開始的媒體炒作。已經在亞洲、拉丁美洲部分地區證明，B2B的電商模式，可能有更好的機會。
For all the talk of the African middle class, he says, “the reality is the Amazonian consumer does not exist.” Mr Yu argues that is why, for instance, Jumia, a business-to-consumer firm once dubbed “the Amazon of Africa”, has struggled to live up to its initial hype. The business-to-business e-commerce model, which has proved successful in parts of Asia and Latin America, may stand a better chance.
⑤ B2B電商 vs 傳統批發商
如果說文章一開始提到的肯亞 Wakulima 市場，是典型的經商模式，那麼新方式就是 Twiga 在 Tatu 市的巨大倉庫，離奈洛比北方 20 公里處。除了其他現代特化色外，它還擁有非洲最大的香蕉成熟設施。乙烯氣體的噴射幾乎神奇地把綠色水果變成了有光澤的黃色。
Twiga 聘請在亞洲運營了 17 年的供應鏈荷蘭物流專家 Tim Broekhuizen 指出，這設施在富裕國家不會格格不入，但此設施是非洲零售業長期以來缺乏的，即使是最平靜的中間商middleman，也可能足以讓他們擔心。
If Wakulima market typified the old way of doing business, then the new way is symbolised by Twiga’s huge warehouse in Tatu City, a bespoke development 20km north of Nairobi. Among other modern features, it has Africa’s largest facility for ripening bananas. Sprays of ethylene gas almost magically turn shelf after shelf of green fruit a lustrous yellow. It would not look out of place in rich countries, notes Tim Broekhuizen, a Dutch logistics expert hired by Twiga after 17 years running supply chains across Asia. The facility is the sort that African retail has long lacked. And it may be enough to worry even the most serene of middlemen.